Ferrari 458 Italia meets 308, 348, F355, 360 and F430 - Ferrari 430
Hi-tech 458 Italia meets its 308, 348, F355, 360 and F430 ancestors in a sonorous supercar group test
Technology is the first thing that strikes you about the 430. The 360’s graceful, clean lines have been tweaked and pinched in an effort to move the air in more efficient ways and Harry thinks it’s only half successful: ‘The sculpted front wings that wrap round perfectly formed headlights just ooze good design. Trouble is, I think the designers were taking so much care over the looks of the front half, they forgot to do the rear.’ The rear certainly looks a little hunched-up and tense across the shoulders, though there’s still something impressive about the row of vanes in the big rear diffuser.
Inside, the steering wheel has very definitely taken over from the gearlever as the attention-grabbing centrepiece. It’s not only that the manettino and starter button have appeared on the wheel for the first time, but the very shape of the wheel has started to morph from round to something more polygon-like. I wouldn’t mind betting that the 430 was launched around the same time as Ferrari started ramping up its merchandising business too, as there seem to be a lot more badges and cavallini dotted around the cabin.There are a few little details that have history, however: the metal pedals have the same drilled holes that look like octopus suckers, just like in the 308, and the four switches for the petrol cap, heated rear screen, etc, are exactly the same as those operating the windows in the 355 (I know that’s a bit geeky, but let’s not forget the models in bubble-wrap).
Turn the key, fiddle with the immobiliser, turn the key again, scratch your head, then remember the big red pimple glaring out from the steering wheel marked ‘Start’. Of all the cars here, the 430 has the friendliest chassis. The steering is quick but not over-sensitive, the grip in the corners is impressive but not intimidating and the introduction of the E-diff paradoxically makes the rear both more planted and more exploitable. Gone is the nervous, overtly mid-engined feeling of the 360 and instead you have a car that can be driven like a 483bhp Italian M3.
The 430’s engine originally had a Maserati trident on the bonnet above it and curiously has just four valves per cylinder, but you can’t argue with the huge leaps of 89bhp and 68lb ft over the 360. There’s still a flat-plane crank but the noise coming from behind your shoulders and resonating across the plain has a deeper, hollower blare to it.
I really enjoy driving the 430. The predictability of its handling and how comfortable I feel driving it up to and over the limit feels spot-on for the road. Perhaps the only slight disappointment is that, seven years on, its F1 gearshift isn’t quite the snappiest any more. And to be fair it probably only feels that way because of the last car here…